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Goal-Setting for Teachers: 8 Paths to Self-Improvement


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This post was updated in August of 2021.

One thing I love about teaching is that the list of ways you can improve is a mile long. It truly never gets boring. But because the work of a teacher has so many dimensions, it’s easy to get overwhelmed; you can’t possibly do it all.

So instead of trying to tackle everything at once, I recommend you pick just one thing. Consider an upcoming time frame when you’ll be away from your regular teaching duties, like summer or spring break. Then decide how much of that time you actually want to focus on meeting a goal—after all, you might just want to catch up on your DVR or do some travelling. If you do want to set aside some time to improve your practice, just pick one thing and focus on that.

First, Determine Your Needs

Start by figuring out where you really need work: I have created an exercise called the Gut-Level Teacher Reflection that will help determine what areas of your practice need the most attention. Go ahead and take that, and once you’ve decided on some key areas for improvement, it’s time to set your goal. To help you, I have put together a list of eight possible paths you might take toward self-improvement as a teacher.



1. Strengthen Your Tech Skills

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have some room for growth with technology. But it’s one thing to say you’re going to “get better at technology,” and quite another to take deliberate action to improve your skills. Here are some steps you might take:


2. Brush up on Your Pedagogy

No matter how long a person has been teaching, there’s always room for pedagogical improvement. Whether you’re learning new theories, brushing up on the basics, or just adding a new technique to your arsenal, improving the way you actually teach should be a recurring feature on every teacher’s to-do list.


3. Improve Your Classroom Management

Here’s another area we could all improve on. If your class isn’t run well and your students aren’t focused, it’s pretty hard to get anything else done. We have looked at the topic of classroom management from a lot of different angles on this site over the years. Browse through all the articles in the classroom management category here.


4. Get More Politically Active

If you’re tired of feeling frustrated by policies that negatively impact your work, it might be time for you to start taking more action to influence those policies. Here are some ways you can move in that direction:

Mindfulness Icon

5. Adjust Your Mindset

One of the most significant improvements you can make to your teaching is changing the way you think about it. Mindset has a powerful impact on how you experience your work and whether or not you continue to grow and thrive. Here are some ways you can systematically work toward developing a healthier mindset:


6. Freshen up your Slide Presentations

Chances are, you probably use PowerPoint or Keynote to create slide presentations. But are you familiar with best practices for slide creation? Most people aren’t, and that means the world is chock-full of less-than-effective slideshows. To start improving yours, take a look at my post, Let’s Make Better Slideshows.


7. Take the First Step Toward National Board Certification

Becoming a National Board Certified Teacher was absolutely the best professional decision I ever made, and it had the most significant impact on the quality of my teaching. Even though I have grown in so many ways since my initial certification in 2004, I still see a few key moments during the process as major turning points in the way I view my work. It raised my expectations for myself and drastically changed the way I measure the quality of my teaching. If you are based in the U.S. and want to learn more, start by reading my post about why getting National Board Certification is worth it (Conquering National Board Certification, and why it’s totally worth it)


8. Get Organized

I left this one for the end because my guess is that this is one of the most common goals for everyone. If organization is your issue, the first tip I can give you for getting more organized is to narrow that goal down to something more specific: Do you want to manage your time better? Organize your digital files? Pull together all the pieces of dozens of little projects you have going on? Here are some tools that can get you started:

How are you growing as a teacher?

I would love to hear about the goals you’ve set for yourself as a teacher. I’m sure I left some things out (actually, as I was finishing this up I realized I completely forgot building content-area knowledge), so let’s keep building this list together. In the comments below, tell me about a past goal you’ve set for yourself as a teacher, and how successful you were at meeting it. Or share a future goal and tell us what your plans are for reaching it.

As my friend Ruth would say, this really is such a marvelous job, isn’t it? ♥

Stick around.
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  1. Erin OKeeffe says:

    Hi Jenn,
    Love your website, blog, everything, including the t-shirts. I have been placed in Kinder next year, after having taught 2nd and 3rd for many years. I have no training in the CCSS for Kinder, no knowledge, no inkling about anything that has to do with munchkins. Can you point me to some resources?
    Thank you!

  2. Jennifer–Love this post, and want to say every newsletter you share helps me on my personal path of growth as an educator and a colleague! (It all started with the “Marigolds” !) This article is perfect professional development!


    • Thanks, Donna! Are you going to try one of these this summer?

      • Donna says:

        All your information you touched on was amazing. I’m a Paraprofessional and work with many students throughout the day. Organization is so important for me. I’m wanting to learn more on Google Calendar for sure. Thanks so much!

  3. Joanne Marks says:

    This is amazing! I feel as if this was written just for me, and I love how you’ve provide a link to all of the resources you recommend.

    • Thanks, Joanne! I’m really glad you found it helpful.

      • May I know what short term goals could set to help me achieve my long term goal to becoming a teacher I know I not have enough budget to continue my goal as a teacher can you please help me what to do I need an advice from you please reply God bless.

  4. Carlyn Grossaint says:

    would love to get updates… I’m working on doing interactive notebooks for my biology kids next year. I’m excited to start

    • Hi Carlyn — Are you referring to updates from this blog? If so, go ahead and sign up for my mailing list and you’ll start receiving weekly emails from me. Just go back up to that gray box and click on either of the red links. Thanks!

  5. Paula Goulding says:

    Great blog I enjoyed reading it thanks.
    I have recently become an assistant head teacher and am really enjoying the role. The one area I struggle with is confidence when speaking to the whole staff, for example, at a staff meeting or a whole school assembly. I prepare really well but forget key points I wanted to make because I am so nervous. I make notes and put promts in my slide shows. I’ve done numerous assemblies but only led 2 staff meetings. Any suggestions on how can I overcome my nerves? Thanks

    • Hi Paula!
      The best advice I’ve heard on calming nerves when you’re presenting is to switch your focus:
      Old Focus: How the audience is perceiving you. This creates a lot of anxiety.
      New Focus: How you can serve and help your audience and deliver value to them.
      I got this advice from reading Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen, which is still the absolute best thing I have ever read on presenting (and I mentioned it in this article above).
      I hope this helps!

  6. Katharine says:

    These goals are absolutely fantastic. Clear, practical, high-quality advice. Thank you for putting them together, and for including resources which you know to be of value.

  7. Keith Howell says:

    Excellent post with great resources for educators. Thanks for sharing. I plan to highlight your post in my next blog! I enjoyed reading your other posts as well. Thanks for being a positive voice in education.

  8. I wish I had read this post back in June! I’ll still share with my colleagues, better late than never! Thank you 🙂 As for my own goals, I read 8 books to use in my classes, picked excepts and talking points and started a blog about it! Hooray!

  9. Muhammad Awwal Umar says:

    I find this piece very useful to my 2016 goals. Thank you for the recipe, and I will always share with my colleagues here in Nigeria.

  10. Cheikh Omar says:

    I find your dedication to helping teachers and students very honorable. Thank you a lot!

  11. gladys says:

    thanks for your time creating these goal. it’s has added to my value

  12. Melanie says:

    I love your website! Thank you for your wonderful work.

    Is the “Teacher, Organize Thyself” resource available?

    Thanks again!

    • Debbie Sachs says:

      Hey, Melanie! This is Debbie, one of the Customer Experience Managers with CoP. If you scroll down to #8 Get Organized, you’ll see links to the Google Calendar, Evernote, and Google Drive posts which were once part of that earlier series called “Teacher, Organize Thyself.” Hope this helps.

  13. Adetutu Gbajumo says:

    I really don’t know how I got into this page but am so glad I need. I needed a teaching resurrection of some kind.
    I am from Nigeria. I teach ICT in an International School and I want to say “Thank you”
    You gave me a focal point again!

  14. Kelli Thomas says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    This is one of the most comprehensive lists I’ve read. The great part about that is I can zero in on the specific ones that are just right for me. It’s overwhelming to think about goals for a new year and you’ve helped me pinpoint some very clear goals as well as attainable steps to reaching them. Thanks very much for the support!

  15. Cristalle Callis says:

    I just found you and just started listening to your podcast and I LOVE your resources! I write down all of the book recommendations that you make on many of your podcasts. Where do you find the time to READ all of these books?

  16. Rome Sanchez says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    I’m currently a senior in college, and I found your blog to be very helpful for the learning communities. Although, my focus is on higher education I will definitely be coming back often to apply some of these strategies at my work place. Some of the goals I have set for this coming year are creating a support group at work for educators, get better with Twitter, and organizing my time as well as my projects early on.


  17. Hello, Ms. Gonsalez,

    Thank you for writing such a great blog. Your tips will help me identify and set goals for the new academic year.

  18. Karyn says:

    What areas would you suggest for an elementary special education teacher (11 yrs) in a resource Room?

    • Holly Burcham says:

      Hi Karyn! This is Holly Burcham, a Customer Experience Manager. This is one of my favorite posts, and inspiring as it is, it’s a lot to take in! My background isn’t SpEd, but I’m thinking the goal-setting ideas in the post could really work for anyone in any educational setting–it really just depends on the area that you want to dig into a bit deeper.
      You could start by getting on Twitter or refining your Twitter skills if need be, or check out Evernote, see if you’d like to use that platform regularly. You could get familiar with either platform in an hour or two, and then figure out if you’d like to take them on more fully.
      If you’re ready to do a bit more, I’d suggest taking on one of the books mentioned here or dig through the Google Educator tutorials.
      Lastly, if you haven’t yet, try out the Gut-Level Teacher Reflection.
      Hope this helps!

  19. Mpulido says:

    Useful information

  20. Nice work. Thank you for sharing

  21. Kavita Antony says:

    I found this post especially useful because it’s definitely written by someone who has been-there-done-that and that’s what makes it very relate able. Thank you

  22. Annette says:

    What a marvelous blog you’ve shared!! I was just reevaluating my goals and craving for some stretch goals when I came upon your blog. It is refreshing, its forward thinking and has the potential to take me away from my comfort zone to grow and be my best self as an educator. Sincere thanks for sharing.

  23. Andrea Preston says:

    I am just going through my future goals and found your user friendly website invaluable with many new ideas about teaching and learning. Thank you for sharing.

  24. Mary Ann Wegmann says:

    Happy to have found this helpful website. Simply inspiring! This information is greatly appreciated by me as I am looking ahead at my 28th year in teaching!

  25. Xuan Dao T Le-Loedding says:

    Hello Jen & thanks for your blog on teaching and teaching recommendations, tips. Much appreciated here as a new teacher in the field. I will definitely recommend this site to others in hopes they find inspiration for the love of teaching. Again, tks!

  26. Jennet says:

    Hi there, Jenn!

    I found all your blogs so informative and helpful for me as an educator. If only I have found out this website three years ago.. I believe I’m a total different educator now. Thanks a lot! By the way, can you help me out what good sources I can get in training teachers for the in – house training? Thanks much..


  27. Patricia Adams says:

    Wonderful, thank you!

  28. Leatha Boehlar says:

    Wornderful, Thank you

  29. Dallas Wilson says:

    Hello! You identified great resources in regards to professional development. Have you found that schools are willing to pay for these PD opportunities, or should educators plan to set aside a certain amount of money to fund these experiences? Additionally, how much time do you believe a teacher should dedicate to professional development? I appreciate the different types of resources that you listed, including books, websites, and certification opportunities. Do you find that schools often provide these opportunities at the school, or do you seek these out on your own?

    • Hi Dallas,

      Great questions — I’m sure it’s different everywhere, but my experience is that a lot of districts and schools have PD budgets both at the district and building level. I’ve also known teachers to use their own money to attend something they’re highly interested in that the district couldn’t support. And I’ve even seen PTOs financially support some PD opportunities. I don’t know that I’ve ever really thought about how much time a teacher should dedicate to PD…but teachers should always be working toward some sort of goal.

  30. Jessica Mckay says:

    Thank you so much! We are being asked to work on personal growth plans for school this year. I will be sharing this with my colleagues.

  31. Der Erzeiher says:

    Thank God, I was steered to your site! You are indeed one good samaritan in the field of education who is more than willing to share to anyone the good stuff you have about educational management and other related subjects in general. “Just love this topic! Educator as I am, I am most delighted to share this with my colleagues during our WEBINARS. More power and more Blessings to One of the Rare Educators on Earth – That’s You! Love and light…

    • Katrice Quitter says:

      Thank you so much for sharing this amazing feedback–I’ll be sure to share this with Jenn, I know she’ll want to see it!

  32. Jennyvi Tulay says:

    Hi Jenn,

    I just wanna ask some advise what can be my Teacher’s Target for this first Term of the School Year, that I can set for my formal observation this end of October. I am a KG2 Teacher here in Qatar.

    Hope you can help me out in this. Thank you…

    • Hey Jennyvi,

      In the post, there’s a link to The Gut-Level Teacher Reaction. Check it out – that would be a great place to start as it can really help you pinpoint an area that you’d like to work on. Once you know your end goal, check out the blog index for resources and strategies. For example, if you’re wanting work on designing meaningful collaborative lessons, check out some ideas that fall under the Cooperative Learning topic. Be sure to try some strategies prior to your observation so you know what works and what you’d like to tweak. Hope this helps!

  33. Bianca Gall says:

    Thank you for sharing these areas to improve on. I find it overwhelming to start a new goal. I found your gut-level teacher reflection very helpful to decide where to start.
    Through my education, I found another area to improve on is making the classroom a learning zone instead of a performance zone. There is a lot of pressure on students, having peers always watching and continues assessing. I am trying to distinctly show students when we are in the learning zone by using self- reflections instead of testing. I have switched over to a portfolio report card that shows the students learning progress. I would love to hear other teachers’ suggestions.

  34. Kelsey Stanley says:

    Hi Jenn,

    I work for a early childhood center. We have children enrolled that are ages 6 weeks to 5 years old. I recently was promoted from a Pre-K Teacher to the Pedagogy Coach for the whole center. Do you have any tips/tricks recommendations for one that is starting out in this profession? I just recently discovered your podcast and your website! Thanks!

    • Katrice Quitter says:

      Hi Kelsey!
      Congratulations on your new position! There are so many resources and sites available that have a wealth of information that could support you starting out. As someone that has an Early Childhood background, here are some of my go-to resources/sites that I frequent to stay current:

      I hope something here helps. Sending you the best as you start your new chapter!

  35. Afshan Baig says:

    Dear Jenn,

    Resourceful and worthy content. Each idea mentioned ( of setting up the goals ) in the present era is a gem. Thank you so much for sharing such nice blogs. Keep up the good work.

    Afshan Baig.

  36. Reagan J Cecil says:

    After reading all the tips in the articles I truly am blessed to know that some much resources for me. As a Music teacher sometimes we get thrown in to the side because we are Resource teachers but this will be great for me to have.

  37. The key to goal setting is to help students take practical steps to achieve them. Many teachers have found that they use SMART Improving Classroom Management

  38. Dewitt Cooper says:

    I’m a new teacher in Building construction and wanted to say thank you for your information.

    • Margaret Harris-Shoates says:

      Jenn will be so glad to know that the content has been helpful for you as a new teacher! Best wishes on your new journey.

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